The Mississippi State University Bulldogs won their 10th Homecoming game in a row on Saturday night against FCS foe, Abilene Christian University.
Although the game was never in jeopardy and ended with the Bulldogs winning 45-7 over ACU, there is significant room for improvement going into next week’s rivalry game against the University of Mississippi.
Head coach Joe Moorhead said the offense started slow, something that cannot happen in next week’s game.
“I was seeing red because I was mad we weren’t executing at a high level,” Moorhead said.
However, Moorhead said the offensive execution did improve in the later scoring drives compared to the first half of the game.
“I think we ran the ball very effectively,” Moorhead said. “I think we protected, I think we threw it in proximity to the receiver and I think we caught the ball (in those later drives), so I think the difference was probably execution.”
Of the six touchdowns MSU scored against ACU, the most notable was junior running back Kylin Hill’s 88-yard streak down the sideline into the end zone with multiple purple-clad players trailing hopelessly in his wake.
“I saw the daylight and I said, 'I gotta run,'” Hill said. “I was looking at the screen to see how far he was and I said ‘I gotta pick it up and keep going.’”
State’s passing game was not noteworthy. ACU had more completions and net passing yards than MSU. Moorhead said, while the improvement of MSU’s passing game might be a slow process, he is hopeful it will improve more with smart recruiting and incremental development.
“I see flashes of it,” Moorhead said. “I don’t think it’s for a lack of ability, I think it’s a lack of consistency.”
As the 45-7 score reflects, State made up for their lack of passing yardage in another area: rushing. With 372 rushing yards to ACU’s 27, MSU significantly outran ACU.
Stevens and Hill led the pack for rushing yards with 88 yards and 153 yards, respectively. There was also an impressive showing by freshman quarterback Garret Shrader considering the short amount of time he played.
For Hill, this game signaled his 10th game with over 100 rushing yards, putting him ahead of former MSU football titan, Dak Prescott, who only had nine 100-yard rushing games.
While a victory in this game was necessary for a bowl game, the name ACU was quickly forgotten after it finished. Instead, all eyes turned to next week’s rivalry game against Ole Miss. While the stakes are high at any rivalry game, the pressure is on for this year’s Egg Bowl. It determines if the Bulldogs make it to post-season play.
Additionally, Ole Miss will be coming off a bye week, giving them more time to rest and prepare for the game. Moorhead said the Bulldogs are not going to waste any time preparing for Thursday’s Thanksgiving matchup.
“We’re coming off of a short week, so it is what it is. We’re not going to make excuses,” Moorhead said. “We’re going to go in tomorrow, watch this tape real early in the morning, grade it and then we're going to move on and start our game plan.”
Hill, who has played in two previous Egg Bowls, said he was prepared for the intensity of the rivalry game.
“I’m ready. I’m locked in and focused,” Hill said. “I know what it means. I’ve been here long enough.”
Hill said he has impressed upon Stevens, a transfer from Penn State University, the importance of Thursday’s game.
“I’ve been telling him, I said, ‘You haven’t seen a rivalry game until you see the Egg Bowl,’ I told him it means a lot to these fans so you cannot go out there and lose the game,” Hill said.
When asked if he would have preferred a bye week over having to play a game in such a short time before the Ole Miss game, Hill said he plans on getting the job done no matter what.
“It doesn’t matter to me,” Hill said. “At the end of the day, you still gotta play the game.”
Moorhead said the team is going to have to jump into the five-day turnaround, push through injuries and watch film on their own to expedite the preparation process for this year’s highly-anticipated rivalry game.
“We’re going to have to hit the ground running on Monday, and I know I’m excited,” Moorhead said. “I know the staff’s excited, I know the fans are excited and I know our players are excited, so take a little nap tonight, get up and get ready to roll.”